Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Feature # 4--Story of the Month

I called this feature "
Story of the Month" basically because I couldn't think of anything else to call it. It's not necessarily going to be a story, but it will be some prose piece; short story or just random blurb. This first one is part of a short story I started.

The Prodigal

Shores are almost always lovely, even if in a strange and wild way. This one was no exception. Above a tall grey cliff the seagulls wheeled, mewling, while below it the waves broke against the rocks. The cliff sloped down on the left to a stony beach where a man was just beaching a small boat. He straightened wearily and gazed around him. Then he began the steep walk to the top of the path leading over the cliff.

He was tall and well-built although bent at the mmoment under a large pack. he had an air of having traveled far and suffered much. Though he was born and raised here his old friends would not have recognized him had the met him. His clothes were old and stained but carefully patched.

He followed the shore path for some time until he came upon a stand of trees; tall elms and stately poplars mixed with dark pines and slim white birches. Here he turned inland, striking a path that led him away from the sound of the waves. The trees ended and the man came out into rolling hills and snug, prosperous farmhouses. In this secluded place it was hard to imagine that the roar of the sea was so near.

Down in a sunny hollow lay a small yellow house with white shutters. Morning glories trailed over the front porch while fruit trees grew behind the house. A neat dirt path led from the road to the house. The man turned down it, as he had so many times before. Up the few steps and he stood, at the last awkward and unsure, before the door. Finally he lifted his hand and knocked.

There was a long silence while he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Then the door opened, revealing a small woman in a blue housedress with an untidy bun of grey hair. She stared at the man for a moment, then gasped. "Christopher! Well, you've come back. Come along inside dear. I'll go and get your father."

Inside the cool hall he stopped her. "Mother, would that be wise? Wouldn't he--I don't want to trouble you. I'll just..."

"You left fifteen years ago dear. He's not been angry with you the last twelve. You always did think him worse than he is."

Left alone in the hall Christopher put his pack down by a small table. Nothing had changed, and yet somehow it was different. What had seemed new and fresh when he was young now was old and worn. Or perhaps it was he that had changed. Or perhaps it was both...

He was deep in his thoughts when his father came in, an aging giant with a great shock of hair going everywhere. He had to take Christopher by the shoulder to get his attention. They stood looking at each other for a long moment. "I am glad to see you back. There was a time when I would have thrown you out if you had set foot in this house, but that is long gone now. Come into the kitchen; your mother will want to feed you I am sure."

Later that night Christopher wandered through the house, implanting it in his memory, as if it was not already there. Here still were the bits of china and silk that had been his mother's dowry. Here were the books that his father read sometimes when the work was done. Here was the picture of the Pyramids that had awakened such longing in him when he was young. There were no traces of him. Even in the room that had been his, still preserved carefully, there were no echoes of the boy that he had been. He could not stay there.

Outside he thought he would go to the barn. The animals would be different, a Suky instead of Bess, a Prince instead of Cyrus, but they would be comforting as their ancestors had been. The barn had always been his refuge and consolation.

He did not expect to find anyone there, but his father had lingered after the chores were over; waiting for something. Christopher did not dare think what. They stood together, silent again, for some time. "You'll be off then," his father said. It was not a question.


"When I was young I wanted to escape. To go somewhere else. I could never do it somehow. Lacked the backbone, I suppose. When you did what I could not I was angry at you. The only outlet left me was books. I chose my fate I suppose."

Christopher was silent for a moment. He had never known that about his father; had never bothered to find out. "I am sorry," he said. It seemed to be all he could say.

"Yes, well it's all right now. God bless you Kit. Come and see us sometime." He turned and left. Christopher stayed there a moment longer and then followed.

In the kitchen his mother was putting up some food in a knapsack. "I've mended your clothes dear, and here is something to take with you. No, don't say anything. I knew you would go. It's the way you are. We will miss you, you know. And I for one would take it kindly if you would write us once in awhile."

"Yes mother. I am sorry." He did not know exactly why he said that, nor what he was apologizing for, but it was said. In the morning he would be gone.

"Go to bed now. I'll wake you early." She kissed him and pushed him gently towards the stairs.

Kit could not deny that it was a relief to be once more on the road, once more walking along the shore. He did not know where he was going now. Perhaps to Lizbeth. She had said she would wait. And she would come wherever he decided to go. Yes, to Lizbeth.

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